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5G and the need to test more for less.


New spectrum and technologies are poised to transform devices, industries, and our daily lives. A very wide variety of applications will be deployed using 5G over the next two years. Initially, 5G will be deployed in high-band cellular spectrum and in fixed-wireless applications as well as industrial and venue settings, adding high capacity and low latency services. Here are eight reason why we predict testing and reporting on ‘customer experience’ will dominate alongside these rollouts.

1. Range: 5G, using both non-line-of-sight (NLOS) “Sub-6 GHz” and line-of-sight (LOS) “mmWave” bands require base stations to be closer to end users and IoT devices. High-frequency spectrum can come with much greater propagation limits and lower indoor penetration. For example, trials of 3.5 gigahertz spectrum indicate that its range falls to about 400 meters outdoors, compared to the much higher range seen with current spectrum. Service Providers will require testing to deliver a truly superior experience.

2. ‘Best of breed’: 4G and 5G network densification is already happening now. Both indoor and outdoor applications and early deployments with LTE (5G Non-Stand Alone) produce a wide variety of deployment options. Various configurations and ‘best of breed’ supplier selections (i.e. different RAN access and Core suppliers) will require more testing to make sure that the customer experience is right, once all the pieces are working together.

3. Iterations: It will take a few years to deliver the 5G coverage, capacity and performance needed to reach gigabit speeds and ultra-low latencies. Each iteration on improving the network performance through new releases must be accompanied by before-and-after testing to justify the investment.

4. Devices: Test devices deployed in the filed can get lost, stolen, broken, damaged. Replacing a test device can not result in a 5-digit capital expense every time. Test devices must be a lot less expensive than replacing conventional engineering probes and engineered to be sustainably re-used and recycled.

5. Technology: Test device technology must move at as fast a pace as network technology. Communication Service Providers (CSPs) must upgrade their devices and test regimes more frequently than is currently the case. An annual swap out of devices in the field and/or remote upgrades are essential to keep up with the advances in network technology and handsets.

6. OPEX vs CAPEX: There are peaks and troughs in test cycles as new roll-out or network upgrades happen, in addition to the routine continuous monitoring of network performance. Pricing schemes need to evolve along with device designs. Who wants to pay for equipment that sits idle between projects?

7. Remote control: Test regimes change and need automation. It is non-sensical to have to drive around in cars every time for a new QoE test. Instead, we remote control devices, configure them remotely and back this up with a world class reporting and analytical platform. This allows test device to be deployed in more locations and for more diverse testing of the customer experience.

8. Indoors: 5G must work indoors. Traditionally networks have been designed based on link budgets for outdoor coverage except to very urban environments. The demands of IoT and ever more demanding customers means that the need to test inside buildings now is just as important. This is one of the biggest challenges facing MNOs.

In summary, testing helps improve network performance, identify infrastructure investment needs, recognize trends, benchmark competitors and fulfil regulatory requirements. The most accurate way to test the user experience is at the point where the ‘customer meets the network’. Deploying more test devices throughout a network is therefore sensible. However, this has historically been prohibitively expensive and complex to manage. SignalScore is changing that.

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